In the late 90’s I was pursued by a start-up that was using web-based audio for physician dictations. Doctors would record, ladies would type, and the web sat in between. During an expensive dinner with the company’s leadership I asked how this was different from recording on a dictaphone. I was met with a broad veneered smile and the incredulous reply, “C’mon Dr. V….this is The Internet.” The bubble popped and the company was insolvent a few months later.
The stethoscope is more interesting. A round disc linked to a phone with a cord, it records a sound file from a patient’s chest and creates a history on the phone. Parents can then interpret the sound themselves to get a sense of whether they should be getting professional attention. A whistling sound, for example, might indicate an asthma flare-up; a crackling noise would point to pneumonia.
19th century auscultation retrofitted for a mobile world. Analog diagnostics dressed for a digital party.
For sure, technology will ultimately allow patients and parents to perform a lot of what now requires a trip to the clinic. And while stories of cribside diagnosis plays well to a hungry media, disruption will only come when diagnostics become precise, sensitive, and amenable to front-line, screening AI. Real change will come when we graduate from the empiric interpretation of noises echoing from body cavities.
Until then, old technology on new devices won’t move the chains.